Monday, September 6, 2010

Class 6— September 9— Memory Painting Exercise

Find a photo you want to paint, carefully composed just the way you want to paint it. You’ll be given ten minutes to memorize it, and then you will paint strictly from memory. You can draw or paint it at home, ahead of time, if you like, or use a photograph that you’ve painted from already, but you will start fresh in class on a new painting

Hi gang,

This week should be another enjoyable challenge. Of course, we’ve done classes based on memory paintings before, with variations on the theme, but this version seems to be one of the best. Familiarity helps, so if you want to use a photo you’ve painted many times before, or one you feel you know very well, that’s fine.

I want you to find a photo that you honestly think you can paint from memory. (Just to clarify, this is NOT a photograph of a painting but a resource photograph.) Spend some time before class thinking it through. Decide if there are things you want to remove and if so, crop or rearrange them as best you can ahead of time and print out the photo. Remember, this need not be a landscape. If you want to paint a still life, portrait, floral, or animal, anything is fine. It will help immensely if you have prepared ahead, giving you the freedom to spend ten minutes carefully studying the exact thing you want to paint. As you compose it, take time to think about the geography. Where on the page do the large shapes occur? Are there major divisions that you can easily measure?

For instance, in this photograph the major shape is the big diamond of the head:

As you look at it you’ll want to find the major shape and carefully note where it resides on the paper. This requires you to think about the size and proportions of the paper—how big or small the image, and whether you want to make it square. Any kind of paper is fine with me. Would you paint this cat face on a 12x12” sheet of paper? Remember, that will make the head larger than real life! Maybe 8x8” makes more sense. You might also print it out at close to 8x8” so that as you study it you can more easily measure the geography one-to-one.

Let’s take another example:

What is the major shape in this composition? I think it’s the large blue shadow. If I can reduce that shadow to a flat shape, and see exactly where it resides on the page, I’m on my way to composing a nice rendition of this photograph.

In both of these, however, I want to think about the major intersections of shapes:
  • cat head/body/shadow/ground/background (I reduce it to seven shapes, if I ignore the ears for now)
  • blue shadow/flowers/dark tree mass, sky, light tree mass (seven here, too, if I keep the sunspot one shape only)

I want to analyze where they go off the page, and what the distances between masses and the edge of the page, reducing it to lines alone. That will help me to think through the image, the paper, the proportions, and prepare to come into class with a sheet of paper that contains nothing (although it can be reclaimed), ready to memorize and paint from the photo.

Preparation such as this will help you paint on Thursday. However, you will start from scratch that day. No drawing ahead of time on the paper!

Please bring anything else you’re working on to class for us to see and critique.

See  you Thursday!